The combination of a freshman pitcher and the wind blowing out of Dudy Noble Field was the perfect prescription for the Mississippi State offense.
The Bulldogs took the weekend series with a 14-5 victory Sunday over Belmont in which they hung eight runs on Bruins left-hander pitcher James Buckelew in his second career start of college baseball.
“Any time you’re in the other dugout and see a freshman pitcher, it’s a pretty good feeling because he’s seeing things he’s never experienced,” Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said.
After allowing the first two runners on, Mississippi State senior third baseman Jarrod Parks set the tone with bats early by crushing a fastball deep over Left Field Lounge for a 3-0 lead before a single out had been recorded by Belmont.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going to go,” Parks said. “The winds were blowing straight out, so it wasn’t going to take much to get it out. We wanted to attack early because we felt like they did not have much left in the bullpen.”
The fifth-year senior, who has fully recovered from back surgery that kept him out of the 2010 season, is now hitting .429 with five extra base hits in 28 at-bats in 2011.
“We knew they didn’t have much left in the pen if we could get up on top early and that’s exactly what we did,” Parks said.
Parks’ long ball was joined by the first home runs of the season for senior first baseman Ryan Collins and freshman outfielder Taylor Stark.
The Bulldogs (7-1) got 10 of the game’s first 11 runs after a pair of RBI singles were followed by a three-run error when a pop fly by MSU senior catcher Wes Thigpen was dropped near first base with the bases loaded. All three Bulldogs runners managed to circle the bases and make a 10-1 deficit for Belmont, which lost the final two games of the three-game tilt after taking the opener 2-1 Friday.
Throughout the first eight games, Mississippi State has outscored its opponents 28-1 in the first two innings of contests.
“I was really, really pleased with how we started the game all the way around,” Cohen said. “I thought we were focused and obviously our starting pitching was good all three games this weekend.”
There were 12 different Mississippi State players who collected a hit Sunday with Parks and the first base combination Daryl Norris and Ryan Collins get multi-hit days.
Mississippi State got another strong effort on the mound and Sunday’s performance was the first collegiate start of the career of Evan Mitchell. The 6-foot-2 right hander from Marietta, Ga., went six strong innings giving up just a pair of runs off five hits in a economical 78 pitches.
“It was real exciting and it turned out real nice for me,” Mitchell said. “I was trying to stick to the plan that (MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson) and Thigpen came up for me.”
The freshman is trying to make a case for himself in the non-conference slate as the third starter in the MSU pitching rotation as the competition with him and left-handers Tim Statz and Chad Girodo heats up over the next month.
“We sent a freshman out there and he showed he’s a real mature kid,” Cohen said. “In our league with as much left-handed offense there is, it’s hard to go in there with three right-handed starters on the weekend but you got to pitch your best guys and Evan may be one of those guys.”
Mississippi State will continue its season-opening 14-game homestand with a 5 p.m. contest against Alcorn State Tuesday.